When The Smith opened in the East Village in 2007, I never imagined it would become a mini-chain. It seemed to us, at the time, an average neighborhood spot and NYU student cafeteria. But a Smith clone opened in East Midtown in late 2011, and a year later across from Lincoln Center, in the old Josephina space. I’m sure it’s not the last one.
The concept here is similar to the East Village: a boistrous, casual space, with subway tile walls and leaded glass windows. It looks like Keith McNally could have designed it, right down to the communal washrooms outside the loo. They take reservations, and the hostess checks coats, which I don’t remember them doing downtown.
menus are similar, but most of the entrées uptown are a couple of dollars more, and at Lincoln Center they serve some extra items: a $75 porterhouse for two, a raw bar. But the core of the menu is the same, and one of the best items, a burger, is $15 at either establishment.
Trout Milanese ($25; above right) is an appealing entrée, served breaded in a mustard crust on a bed of lentils. I didn’t really taste the bacon or pear compote alleged to be in the dish, but it was fine for what it was. I would have liked a bit more kick from the mustard. My girlfriend loved the lobster roll ($29; above left; served only on Fridays), which comes with irresistible house-made chips, as it did when we had it in the East Village two years ago.
There are about fifteen well-thought-out cocktails ($13), and about two dozen over-priced wines by the bottle. But there’s another twenty wines by the glass, caraffe, or large caraffe. These are the way to go. We had the Pinotage ($25, the caraffe), which was the right amount of alcohol before an opera. Bur really, are they that hard up that they can only afford juice glasses to serve it in? C’mon guys!
I’d forgotten how much space there was at Josephina, the restaurant that was here before. The front room would make for a good size restaurant all by itself, but you pass through a corridor and there’s another dining room in back, which is a bit more sedate. This was pre-show, so the crowd was all ages—unlike downtown, which skews young. They did a brisk business, but weren’t full. The noise level was energetic, but not punishing.
My impression here was a bit more favorable than our visit to the original Smith two years ago. Downtown, there’s many more restaurants to charm you. The Lincoln Center scene has improved, but it’s no East Village. There isn’t really any other good spot quite like this one, serving elevated pub food, and doing it pretty well. We’ll be back.
The Smith (1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets, Upper West Side)
Food: Elevated American pub food
Service: Good for this sort of place
Ambiance: McNally Lite
Why? Lincoln Center needed a restaurant like this